A fall in reports of animal beatings was recorded in Devon last year, new figures show.

Data from the RSPCA shows an increase in the number of reports of animals suffering physical cruelty across England and Wales.

It said the figures are "heartbreaking", and suggested the end of the coronavirus pandemic and the soaring cost of living as possible factors.

Numbers from the animal welfare charity show 255 incidents of animal beatings were recorded in Devon last year – down from 260 in 2021.

It means recorded animal beatings fell by 2%.

Across England and Wales, the RSPCA recorded 22% more violent incidents in 2022 than the previous year, with the charity receiving 9,700 reports, or the equivalent of 26 per day.

The number of beatings peaked in August at 1,100, while 77% of all complaints related to physical abuse.

More animals were also killed in suspicious circumstances, with 891 reports in 2022, up 15% from 775 the year before.

Dermot Murphy, inspectorate commissioner at the RSPCA, said: "Right now, animal cruelty is happening in England and Wales on a massive scale and rising. It is heartbreaking that we are seeing such sad figures which show animal cruelty is, very sadly, on the rise.

"While we don’t know for certain why there has been an increase in reports of cruelty, the cost-of-living crisis and the post-pandemic world we live in have created an animal welfare crisis with more people getting pets with potentially less time and money to care for them.

"The cost-of-living crisis also means the cost of rescuing animals is at an all-time high and our vital services are stretched to the limit."

The RSPCA has launched its Cancel Out Cruelty campaign to address the rising figures.

Mr Murphy added: "Together, we believe we can and will cancel out cruelty to animals by replacing violence with kindness.

"We are urging people to donate to our Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, every donation will help animals."